It’s not uncommon to view a markable passage of time, like a new year or birthday, as a tabula rasa; a blank slate upon which we can design our desired future. We often use this shift as a chance to reflect on the past and look forward with hope and promise. Unfortunately, in our noisy culture of instant gratification, it doesn’t take very long for that hope and promise to throw on a pair of dirty sweatpants and flop un-showered on the couch with a remote in one hand, bag of chips in the other, ready to binge away our disappointment, resentment, and self-loathing.
As I’ve mentioned before, our perspective frequently governs and ignites our feelings of failure. We tend to set stringent goals for ourselves, focusing more on the measurable results than the meaning behind our aspirations. Striving for perfection or instant achievement diminishes not only our accomplishments but also the meaning in our work. This formula essentially sets us up for what we consider failure. Practice makes purpose, not perfect. That purpose should be our focus, not just the tangible result. The greater the meaning behind our aspiration, the more motivated we are to persevere, no matter the size of the challenge.
Neurologist and psychologist, Viktor Frankl endured unimaginable circumstances during his time in a Nazi concentration camp. While imprisoned he observed that without intrinsic and authentic purpose, we all have the potential to become apathetic and disillusioned. We give up easier and are less satisfied, even when attaining our goals. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Frankl attributes his survival to his focus on his life’s purpose and will, his internal freedom, and the meaning in his work. After he was released, he used this knowledge to heal and empower others on their journeys. He applied his experience and the tools that he had witnessed to help others, ascending from suffering, and creating something beautiful.
Butterflies typically live for only eight weeks. In under three months, this small creature undergoes measurable, yes, but miraculous transformation. I’m not a lepidopterist (It’s a thing… I’ll wait while you google…) but I’m willing to wager that a monarch’s egg isn’t nestled in milkweed groaning about how it can’t wait to eat its shell. Caterpillars don’t give up halfway through a leaf because it’s just too hard to chew, harshly chastising themselves for not having hatched earlier or dreaming about restful days as a larva. It’s unlikely that they’re checking their little caterpillar watches, tapping their little caterpillar leg, bored after three days in a chrysalis.
The average human lifespan is more than 3,700 weeks. That is more than 450 times that of the butterfly. Imagine what you can do with your time here if you begin to recognize the miracle of your own life and focus on your purpose before perfectionism. Imagine what you can become and create if you pay more attention to the meaning of your work, the slow progress, and small successes instead of the setbacks and struggles. When we criticize or long for our past and set future ambitions with the expectation that only completion will bring us happiness, we are missing the point. We are missing our lives! We are overlooking the miracle of the moment that we are in right now. I’m not saying that goals can’t be good. In life and business, made with purpose and compassion, setting goals can be meaningful and motivating. So go ahead and set that target! And find what works to help you stay on track; small steps, greater convenience, or a partner to help you on your journey (wink.. wink). Just be mindful that the meaning remains more relevant than the measure. Stay supportive of yourself and connected to your highest intention, even on your dirty sweatpants days!
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